CSUN launches new undergraduate stem cell training program as part of $2.9 million grant

A grant program geared toward interested students in stem cell research launched this past fall at CSUN. Photo by gevende, iStock.

A grant program geared toward interested students in stem cell research launched this past fall at CSUN. Photo by gevende, iStock.

Recognizing the need to train the next generation of stem cell scientists, a student success program launched this past fall at California State University, Northridge.  

Thanks to a five-year $2.9 million Creating Opportunities through Mentorship and Partnership Across Stem Cell Science (COMPASS) grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, known as CIRM, 10 historically underrepresented undergraduate students will gain academic support, hands-on research experiences, and mentorship opportunities.  

The trainees will be supported for three academic years and two summer research opportunities at Los Angeles-area biotechnology companies and at partner institutions UCLA and Cedars Sinai Medical Centers.  

CSUN biology faculty Cindy Malone

CSUN biology faculty Cindy Malone

Led by CSUN biology faculty Cindy Malone, Gilberto Flores and Gabriela Chavira, the university’s CIRM N-COMPASS Training Program will be geared to fostering greater awareness and appreciation of diversity, equity and inclusion in trainees, mentors and other program participants.  

“This program is about identifying and fostering untapped talent and bringing diverse and needed perspectives into the regenerative medicine community,” said Malone, director of the CSUN CIRM N-COMPASS and the CSUN-UCLA Stem Cell Scientist Training Program. “The hope is graduates will be prepared for sought after jobs in stem cell-based biotechnology.”  

Students will continue to have access to the mentoring program beyond graduation and will be encouraged to participate as peer mentors. Three different cohorts of students will go through the program over the next five years. The first cohort began in September and will be completing their first academic year in the program this semester.  

Currently, 12 biotech companies, 20 Cedars-Sinai laboratories and 50 UCLA laboratories are committed to the program and its goal of accelerating the delivery of stem cell-based and gene therapy treatments to patients with unmet needs.  

For students interested in the program, Malone says GPA won’t be a factor in consideration as the internship is geared for providing resources in academic and career success. The program, she said, is unique in that it provides academic support for students through workshops and professional development. During their summer internships, trainees will also receive stipends to support them.  

“Giving students the opportunity to work in biotech is great because that can give them a real sense of what it’s like out there,” Flores said. “It’s really hard to know what you want to do as an undergrad in science without having been exposed to anything like that.”  

For more information, contact Malone at cmalone@csun.edu. 

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